When I awoke at 6 a.m. EDT Sunday, according to habit I checked my smart phone for email or Facebook updates, and that’s when I was first informed about the massacre at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
I jumped up, turned on CNN and was transfixed for the next hours. Needed sleep was cast aside although I was scheduled to deliver remarks in celebration of Gay Pride Sunday at my church in a few hours.
Of course, the news was stunning and so tragic. In my younger days, I was in nightclubs like that myself. I totally relate to the environment, as of course so many LGBT persons also do.
But equally painful was the narrative of the news coverage at that point. All the headlines blaring on CNN suggested it that an international terrorist connection was being investigated by the FBI. No mention was made that it was a gay club.
In other words, the impression the news coverage presented was of an ISIS terrorist attack on U.S. soil, feeding domestic fears and inflaming right wing rage.
When I commented on social media that the narrative was presumptive, that no mention of “gay” was being made and that an equally legitimate hypothesis would be a straightforward anti-gay domestic hate crime.
Others roundly criticized my hypothesis. How dare I be so assuming, came the replies, many laced with hateful invectives.
In this context, it was reported that Donald Trump tweeted, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on Islamic terrorism.”
CNN commentator Brian Selter reported that a number of critics were denouncing the media’s failure to associate the Pulse nightclub with the word, “gay.” He said he didn’t think the criticism was fair, and sure enough, references to “gay” began being introduced to the narrative.
When I arrived at church, I learned that the original estimate that 20 had been killed had been revised to 50. It was hard to deliver my words when my turn came. It was to recite a list of celebratory “beatitudes” authored in recent years by an Open and Affirming congregation of the progressive United Church of Christ.
“Blessed are the queer in spirit, for theirs is the home and harbor of God,” it began. “Blessed is anyone who mourns one single friend or a whole family lost, for there is comfort in, through and after the tears.” It went on to say, “Blessed are those who lose a job, or see a smile freeze, those slapped by veiled denial in a liberal church, or averting a child’s face from ugly Westboro Baptist posters.”
I injected there, “Or who suffered what happened in Orlando last night.”
The reading continued, “Rejoice and be glad – for reviled and rejected has a gospel pedigree. It’s called resurrection.”
In the next days, so painfully gradually, authorities and the media have been forced to acknowledge the “gay hate crime” narrative, including the lack of any international terrorist connection, except as part of the self-loathing perpetrator’s excuse for his massacre.
Finally in Wednesday’s Washington Post, a headline on the bottom of Page 9 over an account by Amy Ellis Nutt read, “Displaced Hatred of Self Can Push People to Massacres, Psychologists Say.”
“Hatred of other people is really displaced hate of oneself,” a social psychologist is quoted. “Feelings of self-hate motivate people to restore their sense of significance through action…by showing one’s power over other human beings.”
It’s a basic truth known to every aware gay person, that the root of most violent homophobia is self-hatred by the perpetrator triggered by the person’s fear that he or she is gay. The self-hatred arises from parents or other authority figures who angrily denounce homosexuality.
One gay man remarked on line that gay people have “spent most of our lives being aware that we are at risk.” The Orlando killer mingled among and probably dated many gays in that nightclub for months. This psychopath was walking among them night in, night out.
Sadly, that fact represents the risk that continues as a reality for gays, as long as hatred of homosexuality persists anywhere.